Is Recruitment an Inferior Product?

Happy 2012!

This got prompted by Peter Martin’s post in relation to inferior goods.

Inferior goods are defined as those for which demand decreases as their users’ disposable income increases. He mentions cask wine and International Roast coffee as a couple of retail/consumer examples.

Is your recruitment product an inferior good, based on the definition above?

When our clients are better off financially, do they seek out your services or do they seek to replace you with what they perceive is a superior product (DIY recruitment, a more reputable agency, employer branding consultants)?

Yes, there are many moving parts to offer a one true answer. This is an intrinsic limitation of the neoclassical economic model which relies a lot on the Ceteris Paribus (all other variables remaining equal) which never happens in real life.

However is it worthwhile asking this question as recruitment service providers, don’t you think?

Looking forward to being in touch during 2012

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Recruitment off the back of a truck

This sign is usually parked near the intersection of River and Shirley roads in Crows Nest; during peak traffic hours, the area is a nightmare to drive through, if you can drive through. I live half a mile down from where this ad is.

I am not sure when you last time paid attention to a You-Haul advertisement pushing a jobs website, let alone remembering to check it out once you got home. Seriously, I am just glad to get out of the bumper-to-bumper nightmare without getting too stuck.

Pretty dumb to spend money on this, huh?

Well, the ad is parked in a spot that is pretty much equidistant to The Royal North Shore and Mater Hospitals; surruounding them there is an entire ecosystem of labs, surgeries, private practices, physio centers, you name it.

My neighbour is a nurse. At the small primary school my kids go to, there are at least 1/2 dozen midwives who live in the area. They surely drive around River Rd all-the-time.

I’ve a had look at the advertised website. It is a bit of a substandard online experience, compared to best/better practice. It does what it needs to do as a jobs site, however.

Question is: What would you say is the candidate response due to the ad by the side of the road? I am not expecting huge flows of CV’s, but possibly high relevance levels and material volumes of applicants, given their geo hyper-targeting.

I will aim to get in touch with the agency guys and see if I can complete the picture. Just remember: you can have a niche campaign on wheels if you want to, outside Uni’s (graduates), coming out of Pyrmont (digital, IT), etc.

Have a good evening.

Come on, be social :)

Recruitment and Virtual Goods

I was pretty sure I had not bought any virtual goods; I’d rather give a real bunch to the missus instead of getting her a one-dimensional rose on Facebook. Heck I might lose my face if I show with my byte-based present.

I caught a bit of the first day of @leweb a couple of days ago. During the time I watched it was all about games, mobile, social and payments. I won’t be surprised if that’s how it went for the rest of the sessions.

Fact is, I might be the only old-f@art not buying virtual goods. Billions of dollars have exchanged hands, and many companies have become hugely profitable off the back of these ethereal goods. And they all seem to get even stronger sale/expansion outlooks.

Thing is, I think there is a more comprehensive of virtual goods when I said I had not bought any yet.

If you think of software as a virtual good – whether it is a spreadsheet, a smartphone game, or an iTunes track – I guess this means we’re in this virtual commerce exchange for a long time now. The distinctive feature of these goods is that they have intellectual inputs that ‘impact’ the purchaser or recipient. The problem with my earlier definition was that I did not see intellectual inputs on electronic cows (which are totally different to electric sheep, but I digress).

Hopefully, you have agreed with this revised definition of virtual goods and with the fact that you and I have been supporting this economy for yonks. Let me put something else on top of that:

Physical goods – computers, jeans, coffee – have virtual goods in their make up that appeases or satisfy us emotionally, over and above the fact that the computer is fast, that those jeans hold your butt beautifully, or that the coffee is going to wake you up.

I put to you that those virtual goods are encapsulated in what we call ‘brand’. The implicit assumption is that, perhaps over time, you can find the physical features of branded (and great) goods in other white label products. Manufacturing technology, design progress and Japan seem to indicate this is rather plausible.

That was a bit of a long road to assert that the virtual elements of your product/service have the potential to be the source of customer engagement with them.

Where are our virtual goods in recruitment? How do agencies and hiring organisations build in virtual goods that make clients and job seekers react emotionally in their favour?

I guess as an industry we don’t invest sufficiently in these virtual goods. It might be worthwhile considering investing in them as these could be a tangible part of what you call your differentiators.

What will it take for you to consider investment in your virtual goods? Money? Better understanding?

If you leave an insightful comment I will send you recommendation to be an honorary member of Pet Society.

Have a good weekend

Come on, be social :)

.asia domains – just in case you did not get the memo

In case you are already playing in Asia or are planning to enter the market, you may want to consider having a .asia website for the region. (e.g.,,

You were able to get a .asia top level domain since around mid-march and it’s still early stages. Last time i checked the process is a little more protracted than the registration of other domains (.com et al) and I think it is a more expensive too.

A couple of people I have spoken to think this is a rip off. Although I don’t have a major problem with the conspiracy theory, my view is that for a few hundred dollars it’s worthwhile going through the process and see if the new domain takes off. To me that’s a better option than losing a web address that I would have liked to own because it goes with my regional presence, branding, etc.

If you need a hand with this drop me an email, though it is pretty easy


referred site: The DotAsia Organisation

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Yahoo! launches SmartAds (too close to Smart@ss for me but what do I know)

Via Ross Dawson’s blog

From the press release, this is how it’s meant to work

…if a user is browsing for hybrid cars in Yahoo! Autos and has selected San Francisco as their default location in Yahoo! Weather, Yahoo!’s SmartAds platform can assemble and deliver a display ad in real time that showcases a hybrid vehicle from a major auto brand, as well as local dealer information and current lease rates. This provides a relevant experience to the user and allows the marketer to reach a user who is likely to become a customer.

Back to recruitment advertising, I guess there will be no problem to display a job opening at the dealership, or the car manufacturer, or a San Francisco local council opportunity for an environmental engineer, etc.

Let’s contain the excitement until the service is launched locally.

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Pictures in my head

Thinker/doer Lou Adler from the Adler group has kicked off a project which aims to produce “The Most Advanced, Innovative Career Website in the World”. It is an open project in as much as he’s asking for everyone’s help in putting together all the elements of such a site, and has also considered the possibility of sharing the authoring of the final product.

The article outlining the project already includes some ideas to consider when thinking through the site’s content sources, function elements, backend, etc. Some of them are:

– Use private virtual communities.
– Take maximum advantage of user-generated content.
– Push proactive employee referral programs.
– Develop respectful, instant application processing.
– Add gadgets and feeds.
– Implement cultural branding.
– Take advantage of the current networking sites.

among others.

I didn’t think that any of those suggestions were bad or wrong. But as I was going down the wishlist, I got a picture in my head. You know those composite faces that get made from the best features of the most beautiful people (Julia’s lips, Scarlett’s eyes, etc.); and you know what happens inevitably, right? The face is at best ugly, sometimes it does not even look human.

If the best career website in the world ended up being like those composites, it would not be that great, would it? Imagine all these rich features vying for the web visitors attention making them feel sufficiently intimidated and lost to just leave the site.

And then I got the other picture in my head, which is the scene in city slickers where Curly (Palance) asks Mitch (Billy) about the ‘One Thing’ that matters most to him.

Maybe when designing a career website it’s worthwhile asking what that One Thing is. What do you want to achieve with this site first and foremost? It does not have to exclude other goals but it may steer the website’s design, development and operations in the right direction.

Hope you had a good humpday. I did!

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constructing an employer brand

how does a unique/single employer value proposition work to attract and retain people with different work ad life values, preferences and styles?

a suggestion: you layer it to appeal to your employee segments; and yes, theoretically at least you have to think about employee segments of one (maybe there’s a long tail post on employer branding coming soon).

So what are these layers?

Foundation: this is the ‘infrastructure’ of the EB, the set of values, preferences, modus operandi, etc. that are company-wide. These will likely be ageless/long term and not-for-negotiation.

Design: which attends to the business unit/region/division super-segments. These rest of the infrastructure but are tailored to match the aspirations and preferences of the people that operate within these groups, whilst enabling their strategic role.

Features: focused on teams or individuals, embodied in sets of practices that enable the company to speak to employees with a personal tone (I cater to you). The features are flexible, interchangeable.

The interconnection between foundation, design and features produces EB execution. Example

foundation: the company is green (and not just for the last couple hours)
design: the finance team is prudent, errs on the safe side; the R&D team is innovative and risk-friendly
features: john works 2 days a week from home
interconnection: john is a part-time telecommuter from the finance team; he has a company laptop with an RSA token / VPN for remote access. He’s not been furnished with a printer.

Can you think of better examples? …. now if this is something I have unconsciously robbed off someone’s model from someone pls let me know.

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going exclusive

Ross Clennett from Ingenius Coaching explains agency consultants in a recruiter daily article how they can convince hiring managers to go exclusive with them. From the article, clients need to be explained that:

– Multi-listing potentially devalues the job in the market and potentially devalues the brand of the employer
– Quantity becomes more important than finding the best candidate (e.g. consultants flogging CV’s only to be seen doing something)
– The client does more work and still pays the same fee
– The client does more work, resents it and starts to cut corners
– Exclusivity gives the recruiter time to do a thorough job to find the best candidate
– The reality is that all recruiters give priority to exclusive jobs
– The best candidates are put forward to exclusive jobs
– Other professions don’t do it

Text in brackets is mine.

He finally requests not to ask exclusivity for exclusivity’s sake (i.e. do the best for the client based on the circunstances)

I am sure recruiters can corroborate or not if this reasoning will get their clients to say ‘hmmm… ok! I will work only with you’.

Assumming clients know all this already, I’d say that the reason why clients opt for a portfolio approach is because they do not know which vendor is going to present them the most hireable candidate; this is how we go about making other decisions when outcome uncertainty is a factor, right?; investment in shares may be a good example (you don’t know which company will give you the best/desired returns)

Agency consultants themselves balance their options to source the right person for the client’s assignment. They run their databases, go to all the job boards, put the ad on the paper if they can afford it, etc. Again, they are trying to counter uncertainty by increasing coverage.

You could be rightly arguing that the chosen options are already coming from a pre-screened pool of vendors (e.g. the largest agencies, or the most trafficked websites). Even with this in mind, I put to you that lack of exclusivity stems from the vendor’s lack of offering differentiation, at least in the eyes of the paying customer. In this context, recruiters need to stand out, whether it is by focusing on service breadth, depth, originality, etc.

If this reasoning is sound, then your capacity as a vendor to get your clients to go exclusive with you is determined well before the client contacts you for your services; this perception was set when your customer understood what makes your product unique.

Now you tell me, is this a sissy theoretical argument and there’s no room for differentiation in the recruitment space? Do your customers care if you have a stand out offering? Do you bother in trying to lock in a client, and if yes what’s the clincher?

Have a good weekend

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